The Nigerian social media space has served as a huge theatre all through the first week of June.
From the President’s ‘genocidal post’ which was eventually taken down by Twitter and Facebook on Wednesday and Friday respectively, to banters about a proposed name change from ‘Nigeria’ to United African (Alkebulan) Republic.
The hilarious reactions to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Director General’s remark during an TV interview that members of the scheme can go to war is also one that anyone can hardly forget. It’s truly been an unprecedented week of drama for most Nigerians.
A climax to the developments comes this Friday as the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in a release by Segun Adeyemi, an aide to the Information Minister stated that the Federal Government has indefinitely suspended the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria.
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According to the statement, the Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, “cited the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence” as reason for the action.
In the announcement which was also posted on the ministry’s Twitter handle, “the Minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.”
Expectedly, the development has sparked outrage from Nigerians and non-citizens across the world with many likening the unconstitutional order with the infamous Decree 4, 1984 promulgated by the Muhammadu Buhari during his stint as military dictator.
The Buhari administration has since his early days in office struggled to improve on its human rights record which continues to plummet after his handling of critical issues as those of the Ibrahim Zakzaky Islamic Movement of Nigeria (Shiites), the October 2020 #EndSARS protests, and many other protests in the country.
Amongst many other consequences, this action undisputedly demarkets the country and has huge implications for its ability to influence foreign direct investments. Wickedly embarrassing also, is the fact that a democratically elected president and his handlers who could not obey basic community rules of a microblogging platform would choose the high road than appeal the decision of the company.
One would have equally expected the President’s media team to take the pain to apologise or offer explanations to Nigerians who elected him and reported the tweet, but it all appears like every issue in the eyes of the Buhari presidency is assessed from the prism of a sledge hammer.
Reports are rife that the ban has very little effect on stopping the operations of the corporation with the help of tools like the Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which establishes a protected network connection when using public networks. It must be stressed however, that the optics are bad for the image of the country.
Most worrisome is that the ministry is latching unto the development as an opportunity to commence the process of licensing all Over-the-top media services (OTT) and social media operations in Nigeria. The consequences are enormous and we hope that Nigerians would rise to bring this insensitivity to a halt.
The right to freedom of expression is sacrosanct and to surrender it to a ‘quasi-military leader’ and his overzealous minister is to hand them a spade in preparation for the burial of other freedoms.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.